With the non-waiver trade deadline freshly in our rearview mirror, it’s time to start looking ahead to the postseason. As I did last year, I plan on reviewing each team’s chances of making a deep run into the playoffs, and perhaps winning it all in October (or November). Well, maybe not each team’s chances (sorry Astros) – just the teams that are reasonably close to being in the playoff picture with just 8 weeks left to go.
Today, we begin with the team that is furthest out in the American League, but still has a decent chance – the New York Yankees. The Yankees are 8.5 games out of their division, but only 3 games behind in the Wild Card race. I think it would take a miraculous comeback for them to win the division (especially as well as the Rays and Sox are playing), but considering the teams ahead of them in the Wild Card, and considering how many games are left in the season, they have a more than reasonable shot of getting in.
3 Reasons Why
- Injuries – normally, injuries are what keeps a team out of the playoff race. But, for the Yankees, it might be exactly what the doctor ordered . . . so to speak. Remember the list of injuries that plagued the Yankees at the beginning of the season? Jeter, Granderson, Teixeira, A-Rod, etc. Some of those guys won’t be back this season. But, some have returned already, and others are expected to return in the next couple weeks. Jeter has already made a big impact in his return. Granderson is soon to follow. If Youkilis could come back and perform the way he did earlier in the year, then they’d be in much better shape offensively. And, remember, these are veterans who both understand what a playoff race is all about, and will benefit from having fresh legs due to their extended time on the DL.
- Alfonso Soriano – this was, in my opinion, an excellent move by the Yankees. Left Field was a gaping hole in their offensive production, and Soriano brings some much-needed pop to the lineup. As a team, they rank 12th in the AL in runs scored, and next to last in both OPS and HR. Add Soriano to the middle of that lineup, and he immediately makes everyone else better (especially the way he’s been playing this year). And, if you don’t believe he’ll make a difference, take a look at how the Cubs’ offense has compared to the Yankees’ so far this year. It’s not like they’re rolling out an All-Star-laden lineup every day.
- Pitching – pitching is the only reason the Yankees are still in the hunt. While their offense has struggled to stay afloat, they rank 3rd in the AL in team ERA. And, while Sabathia has struggled in his last two starts, Ivan Nova has really started picking it up (4 consecutive quality starts in July – 2.03 ERA for the month), Kuroda continues to pitch very well (2.51 ERA on the season), and of course Rivera anchors a solid bullpen. If the three starters can drive the train into the postseason, they might not even have to worry about when/if they have to start Pettitte or Hughes.
3 Why Not
- Wild Card – the new playoff format does not favor the Wild Card teams going very deep into the postseason (though the Cardinals did well a year ago). And, this format especially doesn’t favor a team set up the way the Yankees are. Their quality starting pitching options are thin, and using one of their better starters in the Wild Card game will handcuff them in the ALDS.
- Dog Days of Summer – the month of August is a trying time for many players and teams. But, I expect it to be especially difficult for the Yankees – who (to borrow another phrase) are no spring chickens. The season is long and difficult, but when your most “youthful” everyday player is your second-baseman who’s going on 31, it gets a little tougher. Don’t be surprised if the Yankees fade this month, and aren’t even in contention come September 1st.
- Too Many Holes to Fill – adding Soriano filled a much needed void in the Yankees lineup, and getting Jeter & Granderson back will be a boost. But, will it be enough? If the Yankees don’t make some additional moves, I’m not sure their offense will be improved enough to go up against the good pitching that they would face in the postseason. While LF is now much improved, they still rank 13th in the AL in OPS from the DH spot, 14th at catcher and 1B, and rank dead last at 3B. That’s a lot of holes.
How do you think the Yankees’ season will end? Vote now!